Consistent galloper Hollowlea is racing for a $50,000 bonus in Saturday’s $150,000 Listed TROA/Luxbet Winter Championship Final (1600m) at Flemington after the five-year-old topped the points tally in this year’s Winter Championship Series.
Despite having not won a race since the Group 2 Stutt Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley in 2010, the Terry and Karina O’Sullivan-trained gelding was rewarded for his remarkable consistency and secured the top spot with a fourth placed finish in the final heat at Warrnambool on Sunday.
That performance, along with a two runner-up finishes and a fifth placed effort from his four runs in the series, saw Hollowlea finish on 27 points, 3 clear of the runner-up Another Prelate on 24 who notably also failed to win a heat but finished second on three occasions.
Click here to view the full TROA/Luxbet Winter Championship Points Tally
An extremely promising horse as a three-year-old as evidenced by wins in the Stutt Stakes and the Listed Henry Bucks Stakes (1400m), as well as a minor placing in the Group 2 AAMI Vase (2040m), Terry O’Sullivan said the son of Hidden Dragon was found to have been injured after a disappointing autumn three-year-old campaign.
“He had bone chips removed from his knees and then we brought him back and he seemed to be alright but he raced really poorly so we decided to put him out again for 12 months,” O’Sullivan said.
“We brought him back deliberately for the winter because we thought he would appreciate the softer ground.
“I don’t know whether he is quite back to his Spring three-year-old form but we’re pretty happy with his condition and the way he’s going.
“The bonus is a terrific initiative and I’m hoping like hell that he can win the race.”
Based in Stawell, the father/daughter training duo are certainly no strangers to Winter Finals Day success having only last year prepared staying mare Exceptionally to win the Banjo Paterson Series Final (2600m).
Though he would’ve liked to have drawn an inside barrier, O’Sullivan noted that Hollowlea’s Flemington record is probably a bit better than what it reads on paper.
“I thought in his last start at Flemington he was probably a little bit unlucky,” he said.
“He was on his hind legs when the gates opened which he’s never done before and he actually missed the start by three or four lengths, Linda Meech felt that it actually cost him the race.
“With a horse like The Cleaner in the race I’d rather that he got cover, we didn’t intend to go forward at Bendigo but from the wide barrier Linda Meech was really left with no option.”
With regular jockey Linda Meech committed to the Michael O’Leary-trained Glaneuse, to whom she has partnered to win the past two Winter Championship Finals, South Australian rider Matthew Neilson will take the ride on Hollowlea.
Currently rated a $15 chance with TAB fixed odds, O’Sullivan said the horse couldn’t be in better shape. “He’s come through Sunday’s run really well and he’s heading into the final one hundred per cent,” he said.
Hollowlea aside, the O’Sullivan partnership will also saddle up in-form mare Koe in the $100,000 Leilani Series Final (1400m), as well as dual country cup winning gelding Magic Me in the $80,000 National Patient Transport Rising Stars Series Final (1800m).
Despite a significant rise in weight, O’Sullivan said Koe was the stables leading chance from their trio of runners.
“She’s a good little mare racing in great form and she’s drawn a great barrier,” he said “Magic Me’s last run was really good and we’re expecting him to run on strongly again.”
Click here to view the full field, form and barriers for Saturday’s Winter Championship Final or the rest of the Flemington program
By Ben Asgari, racingvictoria.net.au